The true way to judge a Hip Hop artist and his body of work is based on consistency, authenticity, and longevity. Masta Ace is one of those few artists who passes those tests with flying colors, making him one of the best-respected cats in the game, ever. Every album he has ever put out is excellent, and the reason he never really had a big commercial breakthrough most likely is because he never put out any commercial (c)rap – being true to himself and Hip Hop has always been more important.
From Masta Ace’s truly impressive catalog, we have selected 15 of his very best tracks. Missing your personal favorites? Let us know in the comments!
15. Hold U ft Jean Grae (2001)
“No wait, when I hold you if it feels so great / I realize and recognize that you’re my soulmate / It’s us forever, had to let you know / It’s like I told you I’ma hold you never let you go…”
This clever track from Masta Ace’s flawless Disposable Arts album is a love declaration from an emcee to his microphone. Reminiscent of Common‘s “I Used To Love H.E.R.“, the song sounds like a ‘normal’ love song in which Ace professes his love for a girl, but when listening closely it will be clear that what he’s talking about actually is his mic.
Nice touch is Jean Grae ‘s guest verse, from the perspective of the microphone. Ingenius.
14. Slaughtahouse (1993)
“Never hear me talking “I could kill a man!!” / Started making records but I’m still a fan / I’ll take you down, I break your crown
I make you frown, I wake the town / Tick, check it out tock I rock your whole block / Got the funk dialect in stock…”
Even though it’s completely different than his debut album Take A Look Around, Masta Ace’s 1993 sophomore album Slaughtahouse is just as excellent. As Masta Ace Inc. (together with Lord Digga, Paula Perry, Eyceurokk and Leschea), Slaughtahouse is a concept album addressing the growing trend of violence glorification in Hip Hop at that time.
In this over-the-top title track of the album, Ace & co satirically ridicule gangsta rap and violence glorification. Songs like “The Big East”, “Boom Bashin'”, “Saturday Nite Live” and “Jeep Ass Niguh” from the Slaughtahouse album probably are even better, but this song is included in this top 15 because of its significance.
13. Think I Am ft Big Daddy Kane & MF Doom (2012)
“Look fam, you can be the man / Got young chicks moving mad grams on Peter Pan / I’m not blind, I can see the scam / Talk tough, but y’all a bunch of girls like the cheetah band…”
Masta Ace. Big Daddy Kane. MF DOOM. On one track? Yup, that’s awesome of course. The Son Of Yvonne album has Ace spitting rhymes over MF Doom beats, from the Special Herb’s instrumentals – this track guests Kane, and DOOM himself. Dopeness.
12. Born To Roll (1994)
“Brainiac, dumb-dumb, bust the scientifical / Approach to the course and the force is centrifugal / Can you find ya way through the lyrics that be catching em / Throw another rhyme across the room they be fetching em…”
For his 3rd album (and second as/with Masta Ace Inc.) Sittin On Chrome. Masta Ace reinvented himself yet again, this time doing a West Coast flavored album. “Born To Roll is one of the best tracks of Sittin On Chrome – not OUR favorite Masta Ace album, but commercially his most successful one.
11. Me & A.G. ft. A.G. (2016)
“I’m smart as a whip, y’all slaves to the rhythm / Colorful bright flows, sun rays in the prism / Like a hundred days in the prison, I’m acclimated / I’m in the building, y’all dudes get evacuated…”
2016’s The Falling Season is another excellent Masta Ace concept album – this time the running theme is being in a new high school. In many ways, The Falling Season is a prequel of sorts to the classic Disposable Arts.
This track has Ace and D.I.T.C. legend A.G. kicking some dope rhymes over a banging beat. Real Hip Hop.
10. Son Of Yvonne (2012)
“Son of Yvonne, Brownsville-born and bread / And like that quilt, nana got on the bed / I’m a bunch of things, all sown together / To make one man, that will be known forever…”
“Son Of Yvonne” is a beautiful ode to Ace’s mother (and grandmother), over the jazzy “Arrow Root” beat from the MF DOOM’s Special Herbs Vol. 1.
9. Da Grind ft Apocalypse (2004)
“It sounds strange but the rap game is not a game / You could make a lot of money gain a lot of fame / But don’t get it twisted / You could get addicted / Buy a mansion in the Hamptons, and get evicted…”
A great track from his 2004 comeback album A Long Hot Summer (after Disposable Arts, which seemed to be his retirement album). Like Disposable Arts, A Long Hot Summer is a concept album of sorts, and almost just as brilliant.
“Da Grind” is a dope track that encourages listeners to keep working for their money, like Ace himself is doing in the ‘rap game’. The piano and violins perfectly fit the lyrics, as does the beat. Great song.
8. A's & E's w/ Ed OG ft. Marsha Ambrosious (2009)
“Aiyyo, Arts & Entertainment is the acronym / For these two amazing American-Africans / This is ab-verbal-robics like we at the gym / Alternatin’ on these verses, I go after him / Yeah…”
From the criminally slept on Arts & Entertainment album, Ace’s collaboration with Boston legend Ed OG.
“A’s & E’s” is just one of the many great tracks from Arts & Entertainment. Gotta love that video too.
7. As I Reminisce (1990)
“As I reminisce back growin up around my way / I can’t help but think about the games we used to play…”
From his excellent debut album Take A Look Around, this jazzy and mellow laidback track has a young Masta Ace and friends reminiscing about their childhood days. A track with the same vibe as Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s “T.R.O.Y.” and Nas’ Memory Lane. Not often mentioned when it comes to the best tracks of the all around excellent Take A Look Around, but one of our favorites from that album nonetheless.
6. Take A Walk (2001)
“Let’s take a walk through the deepest part of the hood / I wanna know who it was that said it was all good / He must’ve never been to the corner / And spent the half an hour or longer / Where you could smell reality stronger…”
Painting a picture with words if a gift only the best emcees have. Masta ace is one the best. On this track, he takes the listener for a walk through the ghettos of America. Great lyrics, great beat, great sampling: great song.
5. Pass The Mic w/ Ed OG ft KRS-One (2009)
“It’s Ace, Ed and Kris, this is some combination / We got it on lock like Barack got the nomination / It’s the way of life, this is not just an occupation / Every album y’all drop sound a lot like a compilation…”
Another highlight from the excellent Arts & Entertainment. “Pass The Mic” features a phat old school beat and some casually superior lyricism by Masta Ace, Ed OG and guest KRS-One. Pure Hip Hop.
4. Acknowledge (2001)
“If your shit wasn’t so whack, I dissed you to your track / You that little fish that I catch and I throw back / And by the way, give 50 Cent his flow back / You that cat in the club that get hit with a bottle / Fucking with me, you better off trying to hit lotto / And don’t answer back, this is hard shit to follow / And you can’t spit nigga, so you obviously must swallow / Motherfucker…”
Another one of the highlights from the monumental Disposable Arts. On “Acknowledge” Masta Ace casually destroys rappers Boogieman and The High & Mighty for supposed disses they directed at Ace earlier. A lyrical assassination over a killer beat with a dope violin loop and great samples.
3. The Other Side Of Town (1990)
“How do you do? / I’m from the other side of town / The place where the only skin you see is the color brown / The sun never shines in this place where I live / And it’s hard to do right when you feel negative…”
“The Other Side Of Town” is one of the centerpieces of one of the best Hip Hop albums of 1990: Take A Look Around. Other songs from that album like “Me & The Biz”, “I Got Ta”, “Brooklyn Battles”, “Music Man” and The Symphony re-make “Four Minus Three” all deserve a place on this list as well, but there’s just not enough room…
It is nothing but a testament to the excellence of the work of Masta Ace that so many classic tracks have to be left out, on a list with a mere 15 spots.
2. Beatiful (2004)
“Listen, I got a lot to say / Usually my smile stay locked away / But not today, I have to laugh on the real / The aftermath’s kind of ill like I’m Dr. Dre…”
A masterful track from a masterful album. Masta Ace promises ‘to bring terror to the bling era’, while at the same time reflecting on life over an addictive, smooth-as-butter beat. Just one of the highlights of A Long Hot Summer. Other songs from that album – like “Revelations”, “Good Ol Love”, “Soda & Soap”, “The Ways”, and “Brooklyn Masala” – deserve to be on this list too, but 15 spots are just not enough to do Masta Ace’s work true justice.
1. No Regrets (2001)
“For what it’s worth yo, I got no regrets…”
The perfect closing track for the brilliant Disposable Arts, which was supposed to be Masta Ace’s last album (a planned retirement from the rap game that thankfully didn’t last very long). This beautiful song would have been a fitting end to a great career though, and can still be used years down the line when Ace does decide to hang it up.